In an announcement from the Department of Health and Social Care issued today (Tuesday 29 March), the Government has confirmed that free COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to help protect specific groups including eligible patients and NHS and care staff once the universal testing offer ends after 31 March.
The NHS Confederation had been calling for clarity from the Government on the testing requirements for NHS staff following the publication of the Government’s Living with Covid plan, which initially removed their access.
In a recent survey, 94% of health leaders in England said that access to free Covid-19 tests for NHS staff and other key workers should not end.
Welcoming this announcement, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“Health leaders will be relieved that the Government has seen sense and confirmed at the eleventh hour that NHS staff in patient-facing roles will continue to have access to free testing against COVID-19. This is a victory for common sense.
“As rates of coronavirus and hospital admissions continue to be high and with one in 16 people in England believed to have the virus currently, stripping this access from those who care for some of the most vulnerable in our society would have been a massive error.
“Health leaders will also be keen to understand exactly how this cost will be recovered from existing funding arrangements. This comes as rising inflation and increasing costs elsewhere will already leave the NHS with reduced purchasing power, alongside significant staff vacancies and stretching targets to recover many of its non urgent services that were disrupted during the peaks of the pandemic.”